National Mentoring Day – The Importance of Mentoring in Supporting Student Mental Health

Students in a classroom

Todays is National Mentoring Day and as it was World Mental Health Day on 10th October, we wanted to acknowledge the great work of the teams involved in supporting others through mentoring programmes. The importance of mental health has for a long time been neglected. Philosopher Alain de Boton in his book, ‘The School of Life’, says, “Modern societies are collectively deeply committed to education… Yet what is distinctive is just how selective we are about the topics we deem it possible to educate ourselves in. Our energies are overwhelmingly directed towards material, scientific and technical subjects – and away from psychological and emotional ones… We are left to find our own path around our unfeasibly complicated minds – a move as striking (and as wise) as suggesting that each generation should rediscover the laws of physics by themselves.”

Societies are gradually becoming more aware of the emotional aspect of our lives and there is an increase in awareness of mental health, but there is still a long way to go.

As a student it can be tough leaving home to go and study, starting the transition to independence, finding our way and discovering more of who we are and what we want. Additionally, there can be academic pressures, such as learning to hit deadlines for submitting work – outside of the previous more monitored and structured school environment. At the same time as all of this, there can be challenges for students based on their background, gender, race, religion, where they want to go in future and how they can prepare for a future in the world of work, let alone deciding what to do.

The University Mental Health Charter has been set up this year in the UK, which brings together universities committed to supporting the emotional well-being of their students. Again, a positive step in the recognition of these challenges. Student minds, the UK’s mental health charity, publishes a series of reports on topics such as graduate well-being, student living, life in a pandemic and more – and offers support to students.

The number of mentoring schemes that are being run at universities has grown over the years and we have been witness to this ourselves. These mentoring schemes are so valuable, and they can provide a great amount of support for students. We asked a customer of ours, Frankie Galati, Mentoring Programme Officer at Birmingham City University, how she thinks mentoring can support the mental health of students. She responded, “Mentoring can play a key role in helping to develop a broad range of skills and raise aspirations of mentees. Having seen first-hand the difference just 10 weeks of mentoring can make to a students’/graduates’ confidence levels is fantastic. This in turn can be a really positive contribution to someone’s mental health; getting tailored support and working on a 1-2-1 basis with a mentor who guides them through the programme and is a constant source of encouragement.” Frankie runs surveys that ask students how confident they feel around different topics and at different stages, helping provide an insight across the board of the impact the scheme is having.

So, if you have been considering running a mentoring scheme, or have been running one for a while, we acknowledge your efforts. We would also like to show our appreciation to all the mentors, mentees and volunteers that participate in mentoring schemes – you are what makes them so valuable.

Happy National Mentoring Day!